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AILA Press Release: Reorganization Doesn't Go Far Enough

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 99080259 (posted Aug. 2, 1999)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, JULY 15, 1999

CONTACT:
Matt Tallmer
ph: 202-216-2404
mtallmer@aila.org

ADVOCATES SAY REORGANIZATION DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH
Reorganization & Improvement Act Will Hurt Enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), along with a broad coalition of immigration advocates, announced their opposition to a bill aimed at reorganizing the Immigration and Naturalization Service. AILA said the so-called Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act (IRIA) fails to address major problems at the INS. AILA also said the bill would hinder INS enforcement and adjudication.

"The bill doesn't go far enough in reforming the INS. It would make a bad situation worse. It would hurt both enforcement and adjudication," said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA. "While the bill separates the enforcement and adjudication functions, it provides no accountability, no coordination between the enforcement and adjudication arms of the agency, and provides no adequate financing mechanism. The lack of funding and coordination will hurt services that are in this country's interests."

The IRIA would break the INS into two separate agencies, one dealing with enforcement and the other with adjudication. Under the bill, the Attorney General would appoint the heads of each bureau, and the Department of Justice would oversee shared computers and databases. Functional allocations would be transferred to the new bureaus. However, the bill states that the Attorney General can transfer funds between the divisions for up to two years.

"We are concerned that, under this scheme, enforcement would receive funds allocated by Congress, but adjudication would be forced to rely solely on user fees. That is how the INS wound up with its current naturalization backlog of 1.8 million people, and its nearly three-year backlog in processing green card applications. Already people are not getting the services they are paying steep fees for. This bill will only exacerbate those problems," Butterfield said.

In addition to the funding problems, Butterfield noted that the bill gives lip service to coordination. The measure calls for shared resources between the enforcement and adjudication arms, but does not require it. "If the two wings do not share information and resources, then coordination is an empty promise that will result in more delays, and hurt INS efforts to improve the agency's enforcement activities," Butterfield said. "And efficiencies as the result of shared infrastructure will be lost."

Butterfield concluded by saying, "Now is the time for real reform. False promises and false reform will get in the way of enforcing the immigration laws, enabling people to become citizens, reuniting families, and allowing businesses to obtain needed workers."

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